Justice Department Won’t Prosecute Milwaukee Police Over Death in Custody


Three Milwaukee police officers involved in the 2011 arrest of Derek Williams will not face federal criminal charges, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The decision mirrors an earlier one from state prosecutors. Federal officials continue to conduct a wide-ranging review of whether the U.S. Department of Justice should sue the Milwaukee Police Department for a series of possible civil rights violations, known as a pattern or practice investigation, says U.S. Attorney James Santelle.

Williams’ family could file a civil suit, although the decisions by state and federal prosecutors could make a civil case harder to prove. There also is a chance the Fire and Police Commission could still discipline the officers for possible rule violations, but if history is any indication, it likely will not. Williams was black. The three officers are white. Santelle said the decision not to prosecute the officers hinged on determining whether they willfully violated Williams’ civil rights. He stressed that prosecutors had to show more than negligence to prosecute. Santelle called a squad car video that captured Williams’ struggle to breathe in the back seat “tragic and alarming” but said the evidence did not support a criminal case.

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